Censorship: Regulatory Board suspends 20 SHaberTV shows, harshest penalty of all times

Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has suspended 20 TV shows of the Samanyolu Haber TV news channel, its Editor in Chief Metin Yıkar announced via his Twitter account on Saturday.

“RTÜK has given the harshest penalty that it had not given to anybody else in its history,” Yıkar said.

The RTÜK penalty came days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to finish off the Hizmet Movement and its affiliates, including the Samanyolu Haber TV.

Erdoğan has portrayed the sweeping corruption scandal that broke on Dec. 17, 2013 and implicated close associates and even his own family as a Gülen movement plot to weaken his government ahead of critical local polls scheduled for March 30.

Gülen and his followers are at the center of Erdoğan’s accusations, although the prime minister has so far failed to present solid evidence to prove that the Hizmet movement is behind the Dec. 17 corruption probe.

In a related development, RTÜK members Öztunç and Süleyman Demirkan stated at a press conference that the RTÜK’s biased attitude toward TV channels prevents the Supreme Election Board (YSK) from reaching fair decisions on channels that may have violated the pre-election rules.

Recalling that the deputy head of the RTÜK’s Monitoring Department has ordered reports to be prepared on those TV channels that broadcast main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech at a parliamentary group meeting on Feb. 25, during which he played recordings allegedly featuring the voices of PM Erdoğan and his son, Bilal Erdoğan, to the YSK for violations of the pre-election rules, Öztunç said the reports had caused much debate in the RTÜK supreme board meeting.

“During the two-day debate, we explained that this [preparing reports on government-critical channels] is wrong, as it is indirect censorship. Freedom of the press is an inseparable part of democracy. If press freedom is absent, then we cannot talk about democracy. We urged the other members not to do this. But the five members of the board who were elected from AK Party quota were not persuaded on the issue,” said Öztunç.

 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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